In 1965 Executive Order 11246 was issued, prohibiting discrimination in employment because of race, color or national origin. In 1967 that order was amended by Executive Order 11375, which forbids discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The addition of religion in the categories in which discrimination is prohibited by law has created serious problems for religious institutions.
There is a distinct difference between the preferential selection of personnel by religious institutions on the basis of religious conviction, and unfair discrimination on the part of a secular enterprise because of religion. We agree that the latter is wrong, and should be proscribed by law, but the former is necessary if the essential character of a religious institution is to be maintained.
Congress has consistently recognized this need to protect the rights of religious institutions and has included specific language for this purpose in its Civil Rights and Equal Employment legislation. For instance, the clear intent of Congress was reaffirmed in the amendment to the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (Public Law 92-261 dated March 24, 1972) in these words:
“This title shall not apply to an employer with respect to . . .a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with. . . its activities. ”
Notwithstanding this very explicit language in the law, the Department of Labor has published Federal Regulations that became effective February 20, 1973, and which are applicable to religious institutions in exactly the same way as they apply to secular organizations.
We call upon the Department of Labor, other departments of the Executive Branch, and the President of the United States to make sure that the rights of religious institutions with respect to employment of personnel of their own persuasion are fully protected. This is essential if the character and integrity of such institutions are to be preserved. Nondiscrimination should be law in matters involving race, color, ethnic origin or sex; but religious preference without penalty is still guaranteed by the First Amendment.